Our theme this month is Celtic mythology, so today I’m talking about Irish werewolves!
How are Irish werewolves different from normal werewolves, you ask?
In many stories, werewolves are warriors who willingly take the shape of wolves in order to protect the people under their care. Some people are cursed (usually by Christian priests). Some are born with the ability. Some are enchanted. Irish werewolves are warriors and guardians and raiders, but they're rarely the bloodthirsty monsters of horror novels.
One of my favorite stories is about the werewolves of Ossory. The legend tells of a priest who encounters a wolf on the road. The priest thinks he’s going to die, but then the wolf starts talking. He tells the priest not to be afraid and that he needs some help.
The wolf says:
“There are two of us, a man and a woman, natives of Ossory, who through the curse of one Natalis, saint and abbot, are compelled every seven years to put off the human form and depart from the dwellings of men. Quitting entirely the human form, we assume that of wolves. At the end of the seven years, if they chance to survive, two others being substituted in their places, they return to their country and their former shape. And now, she who is my partner in this visitation lies dangerously sick not inspired by divine charity, to give her the consolations of your priestly office.” (Topographia Hibernica by Gerald of Wales)
So the priest performs last rites for the sick wolf, and the other wolf leads the priest out of the woods and sends him safely on his way.
I have nothing against bloodthirsty werewolves, but the Irish werewolves are a nice change of pace.
*If you're looking for a good read along these lines, check out Jan DeLima's Celtic Wolves.*